honey

Honey Lavender Popsicles

My mother has been reiterating a message recently over our phone calls -- "Always take care of yourself. Your health is most important." I'm convinced my mother is Confucius in a disguise you see, she'll often repeat these deep life lessons in simple 1-2 sentence structure that are seemingly so simple yet deafeningly profound.

A few examples:

"Take care of your eyes. Sit too close to TV, read in dark, you go blind."

or

"Skin is most important on woman. You no take care of skin, you old very fast."

and certainly my favorite...

"You eat too much, you get fat."

 

It's easy to become caught up in the natural groove of things -- living in these modern busy lives of ours, we often set aside our health on the back burner. It takes a lot of time, discipline, and maintenance to eat healthy, exercise daily, and somewhere in between, to find free time for yourself.

But should it be that way?

The power of stress is often understated, yet it has become such a prominent part of our every day lives. We all owe ourselves the commitment to stay respectful towards our bodies -- be good to your body and it will be good to you. Sometimes things are just as simple as that.

The weather has been beautiful here in Texas. Our garden is in full bloom, including our lavender that served as inspiration for this recipe. Originally this was made as an ice cream but I decided to go with a lighter version in popsicle form and replaced the sugar and cream with honey and a bit of condensed milk. It's soothing and dreamy in every regard. Enjoy!

 

Honey Lavender Popsicles
Recipe Type: Desserts
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A delightful mixture of honey and lavender makes this popsicle soothing and dreamy. Perfect for Summer!
Ingredients
  • 2 cups purified water
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender
  • 3 T organic condensed milk
  • 2 oz fresh honeycomb or honey
Instructions
  1. Place water in small pot over medium high heat and bring to boil. Add remaining ingredients and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and steep for 15 minutes. If you want a stronger lavender flavor, steep for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Strain in a container with a lip to make pouring easier. Taste and adjust accordingly. Pour into molds and freeze. Because the mix is very light, the sticks may float. Simply hold them in place using foil and a little creativity. You can also wait 30 minutes or until semi frozen to put the sticks in place.

 

The Number Four

When it comes to alcohol, I'd be what people would call a "weenie".  I almost wince at the sharpness of most liquors, sometimes to the point of tears.  But let's quit the dramatics and get down to business.  I love this drink.  I love Angus Winchester.  And for those of you who don't know who he is, he's pretty much one of the big honchos in the world of bartending.  

This drink actually came off The Cedars Social cocktail menu and it sounded too good to pass up -- with a blend of gin, honey syrup, cracked cardamon pods and black pepper, this is one of those cocktails I could drink for hours.  HOURS. The honey adds just the right amount of sweetness, the cardamon really adds that perfect touch that accentuates all the spices in gin, and the black pepper gives it the nicest bite at the end.  Genius Angus, pure genius. It's smooth, whimsical and I feel kinda sexy when I drink it.  Give it a shot, share your thoughts : )

Now I'm not 100% sure what the exact Angus recipe is so please adjust the flavors to your liking.

In a highball glass, fill half way with ice.  In a shaker pour 3 oz of gin, 1 oz honey, a crushed cardamom pod, and a couple freshly crack black pepper corns. Stir until honey is mostly dissolved and pour into glass. Serve immediately.

 

**** It may help to heat up your honey a little to make it more liquid and easier to mix.

 

Intensi-Toddy!

There are many things to love about winter: extra blankets on the bed, sweatshirts, fuzzy slippers and boots, scarves and mittens, oh my!  There are also many things to despise about winter: shorter days, dry skin, the blistering cold, and oh yes, getting sick.  Being prone to respiratory infections, I always panic when I feel the symptoms coming on.  Stuffy nose, tender and swollen throat, head congestion—I’ll rush to chug packets of Emergen-C and chug glass after glass of hot water with lemon but sometimes it’s just too late. 

The Mighty Respiratory Monster prevails and wastes no time making your entire body feel like a listless lump of coughing, sniffling, icky snot glob.  You sound gross, you look gross you feel gross and downing half a bottle of Nyquil along with that gigantic glass of Theraflu gives you weird dreams.  (It also gives you the worst hangover the next morning or is that just me??)  So unfortunately I got sick over the weekend and by Monday I felt delirious – achy joints, fatigue, sore swollen throat and congestion to the max.  I opted for the more natural route this time to treat my cold symptoms and folks, the results were a huge WIN.

I hocus pocused a magical concoction that will now be my go to cure-all for all future cold symptoms.  I introduce to you – the Intesi-toddy.  It’s like a Hot Toddy but INTENSE.  What makes it intense you ask?  Your usual Hot Toddy has brandy (I used spiced rum), honey, lemon and tea – I’ve pumped it up a notch and threw in some cayenne, cloves, cinnamon and ginger to give the drink a KICK.  I’m telling you, it really knees your cold straight in the groin – it shows your cold who’s the boss and tells him to get the hell out of town.  (I always imagine my colds as male characters because they cause so much trouble, ZING!) In other words, it’s awesome and next time you’re as sick as a dog make this and drink at least 4 cups a day. 

 

Make sure it’s really hot, add more honey to the recipe if you want it sweeter, and don’t be a baby when it comes to the cayenne because that’s the magical stuff that does the ass kicking. All the spices in this drink are anti-inflammatory and can help with cough suppression, breaking up of mucus and increased blood circulation to help fight the infection.  Also for the men out there, if your Toddy needs an extra kick like my Mister’s did, feel free to give it some extra love ;).

In the meantime, stay warm, drink lots of fluids, and wash your hands often.   Remember to cough into your arm instead of your hand and don’t be gross when you sneeze.    And if you see someone a little sniffly just tell them “Sounds to me like you need an INTENSI-TODDY!!” Be sure to yell extra loud for the extra dramatics because people who are sick tend to like that. 

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Honey

 

My first panna cotta experience was actually with my first job working as an Assistant Pastry Chef at Bailey's Prime.  I was too embarassed to admit to the Chef that I had no CLUE as to what the heck panna cotta was except that it sounded fancy as hell.

Luckily, it was one of the easiest desserts I've ever made and actually turned out to be one of my favorites.  I loved the creamy yet firm texture, the lovely dressings on top and the way it looked so smooth and elegant --- plus, who wouldn't be impressed with a dessert called PANNA COTTA!  I say it exactly like that too when I serve it, with gumption, excitement and my best Italian accent.   

I found this recipe from an old issue of Food & Wine Magazine, I loved the simplicity of flavors with the yogurt and honey -- did I also mention this was a healthy dessert?  *GASP* You're welcome :)

Ingredients for Yogurt Panna Cottas with Honey:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • black grapes, for serving

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.  In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.



In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the yogurt.  Whisk in the warm milk until smooth.  Pour the panna cotta mixture into six 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.



To serve, drizzle the panna cottas with the honey and garnish with the grapes.  Make Ahead: The yogurt panna cottas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving. 

Moroccan Carrot Soup

Back in March, Collin and I purchased our very first home together.  It was ragged, beaten down and was practically obliterated by termites.  The woman who owned the house before us lived here for over 40 years and never did a single update.  I want you to imagine that -- original wall paper and carpet, stove tops and ovens from back in the 70s, we even found a hoover vacuum cleaner back from the the 60s, and not to mention that the doors and walls had deeply yellowed with age.  It was just plain awful.

But together we saw something in this house: potential.  We knew with a little lot of hard work, we could make this into something liveable, something beautiful, something we'd be proud to call our very first home.  Finally now after 6 months, we've finished: new walls, new kitchen, new paint, new floors...the list goes on forever.  And let me tell you, it's freaking fantastic.  As a way to celebrate our achievements, I've decided to throw a housewarming party this Saturday -- complete with a roast pig, a keg, and plenty of food but most importantly sharing our new home with our family and friends.

In many ways this house has become representative of my personal struggles these past couple of years.  Since graduating college two years ago it has been a challenge to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my life, especially career wise.  At my lowest point, I felt like this house the way we first found it: dark, in shambles, and completely unorganized.  However, with time, ample searching, commitment and hard work I've found my niche in cooking, photography and piano and slowly but surely I'm begining to feel myself flourish.  I wouldn't be here if Collin didn't notice my potential and continued to push me to strive for my dreams, what once seemed like an impossible feat has now become my gorgeous reality.

We completed the very last project, the deck earlier this week and we couldn't contain our excitement and wanted to put it to use right away. I made this hearty, comforting to the soul bowl of Moroccan Carrot Soup to perfectly compliment our cool Fall nights we've recently been having (finally Texas!!!!).  We spread out a blanket, lit a few candles and basked in the aromas of cumin and fresh wood as we had our soup in silence.  Collin laid back on the blanket, closed his eyes and let out a huge long sigh -- "I can't believe we live here, we have the best house in the world."

Indeed we do my love, indeed we do.

From Epicurious

Ingredients for Moroccan Carrot Soup:(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen
  • Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

    Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.